BRISBANE, Australia — Conservative lawmakers in the parliament of the Australian state of Queensland have voted to redefine civil partnerships, downgrading them to the lessor class of “registered relationships,” and said they also plan to ban same-sex couples from having children through surrogacy.
After a sometimes heated debate Thursday, the conservative Liberal National Party majority, which took control of the Parliament from the Labor Party earlier this year, voted to extensively alter the provisions of the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 which took effect in February.
The lawmakers’ actions will also revoke same-sex couples’ ability to surrogate children as well as remove the option of a state sanctioned official ceremony so that “(registered partnership licensing) bears less resemblance to marriage.”
Liberal National Party Leader Campbell Newman, whose party now controls 78 of the 89 seats in the Parliament, said that Thursday’s actions to amend Queensland’s civil partnerships system actually showed that his party was “prepared to reach a sensible compromise that retains rights.”
“Same-sex couples throughout Queensland will be deeply insulted by the fact that yet again their relationships have been downgraded and demeaned by their own government,” said marriage equality advocate Alex Greenwich.
Jim Wallace, managing director for the Australian Christian Lobby disputed Greenwich’s statement, and said that people were tired of a minority’s agenda driving social policy in Australia by putting the rights of adults ahead of the rights of children, truth and biology.
“What we saw in the Queensland Parliament last night was the response to a groundswell of concern for marriage and putting the rights of children first in public policy,” Wallace said. “While most people are tolerant and supportive of removing discrimination from same-sex couples, the selfish agenda of some activists has been given too much prominence in public policy.”
In a separate statement after the vote, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced that single people and gay couples will no longer be able to have children through a surrogate when the LNP repeals those sections of the Act.
Shortly before elections in March, Newman publicly maintained that the party would “not be making any changes” to the state’s surrogacy law.
The Queensland Surrogacy Act, which was passed into law two years ago in 2010, allowed same-sex couples, unmarried domestic couples to have children, provided that the surrogates were not paid.
Newman told the Brisbane Times that contrary to statements he made prior to the elections, “it had always been a party policy commitment,” adding, “No one asked.”
The original act offered many of the same rights and obligations as marriage to same-sex couples, except adoption rights, and was unanimously opposed by the now-ruling Liberal National Party whose leadership maintained that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Members of the LNP wanted to ban same-sex couples from any form of registered relationship during the debate Thursday, but that motion was tabled with party leader Newman saying that such actions “would cause pain and suffering” and “a lot of trauma to many innocent people” who had already entered into civil partnerships.